Monday, 24 September 2012

Hidden Gems at Carrigagulla

Carrigagulla 5 stone circle
It's our first real "stoning" day out for what seems like months. The forecast is OK, but after this Summer any forecast that doesn't mention continual rain would sound good !
We set off in good time. Sandwiches, chocolate and drinks all ready and sorted and we're heading off down our lane and out towards the main road.
Passing through Dunmanway, we get behind the now obligatory slowest driver on the road, occasionally overtaken by the also obligatory lunatic, who wants to overtake the whole line of cars.....blind bends and other cars coming towards us all the better !!
In Macroom, we are looking for the turning off to Ballinagree. Then up a pleasant road until we see the sign pointing left for our first destination - Carrigagulla Stone Circle.
We park up by the magnificent old farmhouse and have a chat with the Farmer who has just driven down the lane in his tractor. He lets us park there and gives directions to the circle, remarking that quite a few people get lost trying to find it !
It's about three quarters of a mile to a mile walk up an old boreen. The directions are to keep on the boreen up the hill and then down the other side to where a small plantation is growing up on the left. Then on the right will be a gate. The circle is in the bottom of this field. Sounds easy !
There are several stones in the fields to the left at the top of the hill, that look old. Some are being used as fence posts. I know that there is an old row up here and I'm going to have a better look on the way back.
The central stone, Carrigagulla Stone Circle
The recumbant stone, Carrigagulla
Heading further down the track, I pass a cross roads and then come to a ford. This doesn't seem right !
After a bit of backtracking, I spot the stones at the bottom of a rushy, marshy looking field. The gate into the field also leads down a narrow muddy boreen, which looks a better bet than trudging through the rushes and it leads down to an old abandoned, ruined farm. It's a magical place.
A step over the small stream which seperates the farm from the field, then its just a 50 yard hop and jump to more solid ground and Carrigagulla Circle - and what a wonderful circle it is. Even though though it's centre has been engulfed in reeds and rushes and the vegetation from the nearby hedgerow is encroaching, it is still in great condition. I count 15 stones still standing - including the low recumbant and the 2 radially set portal stones. A couple of stones have fallen and near the centre lies another. It is aligned just off NE-SW at 245 degrees,which according to Jack Roberts, is for the Cross Quarter.
I take several photo's and admire the extensive views. Carrigagulla NE circle is only about 500 yards away to the North, but impossible to see, because of the forestry.
The Portal stones at Carrigagulla stone circle
Carrigagulla Stone Circle
Carrigagulla Stone Circle
Back through the farm and down to the boreen, where I notice a small post pointing into the field of the stones. I don't know how I missed it on the way ! though in my own defence - it is hidden in the undergrowth !!
The ruined farm at Carrigagulla
Ruined farm at Carrigagulla
The ruined farm at Carrigagulla
Spot the sign!
Further on up the boreen and I'm arriving at the standing stones. There is one obvious standing stone (alongside a fallen stone) in the middle of the field on the right. I think that the two gate/fence posts were part of the row, before ending up in their present positions.
remains of Stone row at Carrigagulla
remains of the stone row at Carrigagulla
Back to the car and off to our next stop - just a few hundred yards further on up the road is a turning into the Coilte forestry plantation. We follow the track until we come to an obvious right hand turn leading to a dead end.
I know that Carrigagulla NE is just down this track and off in the trees somewhere. I have explicit directions (picked up from The Modern Antiquarian site). Seems straightforward. Walk to end of track - go west 120 paces - then North 45 paces into trees and voila !
I get to the end of the track,and then step into what looks like an innocuous little puddle....... seconds later I am knee deep in black, smelly bog water, which is rapidly filling my boots. Not quite what I had in mind, as I pull myself up onto drier land. I now forget my Wests from my Norths and somehow circle back to the car.
Not giving up - its back down the track and then find an obvious dry and easy step over and this time head straight into the trees (right at the corner) and head West. After 100 yards or so I can make out some stones over in a clearing to the right.... and here it is,another magical sight beholds me. Carrigagulla NE five stone circle !  If this circle was just sitting in a field, it would be quite plain. But here in this clearing amongst the conifers it is special -  "a must visit" circle.
Again aligned for the cross quarter (240 degrees - Jack Roberts). All five stones are upright and in good condition.
5 stone circle at Carrigagulla
5 Stone Circle at Carrigagulla
The 5 stone circle at Carrigagulla
I head back out to the track and squelch my way back to the car. After ringing out my socks, we have our packed lunch whilst sitting listening to the birds singing.
Looking at the map, we should have spotted a stone row on the way in and have to wonder how we missed it, it being only yards from the track. It is just so obvious on the return !
Three stones make up the row. One large stone and one very small stone are still standing and another large stone lies fallen. The area has been clearfelled and the row is now fenced off. The fallen stone was damaged in an attempt to protect it when the trees were felled. The machine moving it accidentally dropped it, causing a section to shear off ( ).
Stone Row at Carrigagulla
Stone Row at Carrigagulla
Next off - we head back out to the main road, taking a right at the bridge and following the lane. We spot Oughtihery five stone Circle in the fields to the left.
There's a farm just along a little... and a large stone set near the entrance lane. Not too sure on this one's antiquity, but it looks impressive standing proud as it does at the roadside.
Luckily the Farmer and his wife are just driving out and I ask them for permission to go over to the circle. Permission granted, though he warns us that the fences are all live !
Roadside Stone
Back to the nearest gateway and trying to work out the easiest way through the absolute myriad of electric fences across the fields. Luckily most are just high enough to be able to roll underneath and eventually the circle is reached.
This one is looking a little neglected. The interior has been used as a dump for all the field clearance stones, which is a shame as the circle itself is in good condition. In the same field, lies the scant remains of a wedge tomb. Several  more electric fences over is the massive 10-12 foot tall Maulmore Standing stone. In fact part of a stone pair - the second being not much more than a mere stump hidden in the long grass.
Oughtihery Stone Circle
Scant remains of the wedge tomb at Oughtihery
Maulmore Stone
Maulmore Stone

Time is getting on now so we head back to the car and carry on down the lane. There's a sign for a "Ring Forte" and Cross Slab, so we have a quick look. Up some steps and into a clearing, This is obviously the ring fort but it is too overgrown to make much sense of and there is no sign of any cross slab !
Can't win them all....... Homeward bound we head, happy. It's been a good day and we've had our stone fix.... until the next time !

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